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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Royal Robbins Field Vest > Test Report by James E. Triplett

Royal Robbins
Field Guide Vest

Field Guide Vest front view

by James E. Triplett
Initial Report - April 22, 2009
Field Report - June 26, 2009
Long Term Report - August 24, 2009


Personal Biographical Information:

Name: James E. Triplett
Age: 49
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 2" (188 cm)
Weight: 195 lb (88.5 kg)
Chest: 42" (106 cm)
15" (38 cm)
Email address:
City, State: Cedar Rapids, Iowa - USA


Backpacking Background:

I am an experienced hiker, backpacker, and camper, and am gaining more experience with winter camping every year.  I hike every day, and backpack when possible, which leads to many weekends backpacking and camping each year.  I try and take at least one annual week-long backpacking trip in addition to many one to three-night weekend trips.   My style can best be described as lightweight, but not at the cost of giving up too much comfort.  I generally sleep in a tent, and seem to be collecting quite a few of them to choose from.

Manufacturer Information:

Manufacturer: Royal Robbins

Field Guide Vest hang-tags

Product Information:

Year of Manufacture: 2009

Item being tested:
Field Guide Vest
Style number: 40014
Color: Khaki
MSRP: $85
Listed weight: 1 lb 2.8 oz (533 g)
Actual weight:
1 lb 3 oz (539 g)

Additional Field Guide Vest information:
(From the Royal Robbins website)
  • Garment weight 1 lb., 2.8 oz.
  • Padded neck and shoulder
  • Snap tab at back neck
  • Fully mesh lined
  • D-ring
  • Chest pocket with key lanyard
  • Two way center front zipper
  • Adjustable waist tabs
  • 13 exterior pockets and 4 interior pockets
  • 28" back length in size L
Sizes & Color choices:
  • Jet Black in M, L, XL, XXL, 2XL
  • Khaki in S, M, L, XL, XXL, 2XL
                (Not sure what the difference is between XXL and 2XL.)

Field Guide Vest back view

Initial Report
April 22, 2009

Initial Inspection:
My first impression of the Royal Robbins Field Guide Vest was "man, this thing has a lot of pockets!"  The second thing that seemed to stand out was that the Field Guide Vest is heavy.  Not really heavy, but constructed more like a jacket would be made, rather than what I would expect from most vests.  I like this.  The heavier weight should be appropriate for the cool Iowa spring mornings we have in April and May.  Also, the heavier construction hopefully will support items in the pockets well, and make the vest comfortable to wear when the pockets are loaded up.

Field Guide Vest D-ring        
Field Guide Vest loop

The Field Guide Vest has 13 exterior pockets and four interior pockets.  It also has a D ring on the front-right shoulder (above-left), and two fabric loops that snap closed; one behind the collar (above-right), and one on the left-front shoulder.  (I am unsure at this point as to the purpose of the fabric loop located behind the collar, but it is there, nonetheless.)  Similar plastic snaps are also used on both sides of the vest as a way to tighten the waist (below).  There are two elasticized pockets on the lower outside, slightly around to the back side of the vest.  These pockets don't have closures (like flaps or zippers) so items should be easy to remove even though the pockets aren't really visible to the wearer.

Field Guide Vest back pocket

Besides the back pockets, most of the other pockets are not symmetrical from the left side of the vest to the right side of the vest.  This is kind of cool in that hopefully with so many choices of locations and sizes of pockets, everything should find a proper home.

The interior of the Field Guide Vest is mesh lined and feels comfortable.  All seams (and there are a lot) look to be well made, and there were no flaws discovered.

Inside the Field Guide Vest

Further Inspection:
There are so many pockets on the Royal Robbins Field Guide Vest that at this point I can't keep them straight.  I know I saw the key lanyard in one of the pockets, but I don't recall which one.  There is a tag sewn into one of the interior seams which has care instructions (machine wash and dry, cool iron, no fabric softener or chlorine bleach).  Another tag is inside the collar, and has the Royal Robbins name, size, and material content (100% nylon, made in Bangladesh).

Made in Bangladesh

Other Information:
Interestingly enough, Royal Robbins is the name of the person who formed the Royal Robbins Company along with his wife Liz.  According to the website, Royal is an internationally acclaimed climber and kayaker who founded this outdoor clothing company over 30 years ago.

Future Use:
My continued testing of the Royal Robbins Field Guide Vest will primarily be in Iowa and Missouri.  The average temperature and precipitation data for Eastern Iowa are in the table below.  The elevations here range from around 480 feet (145 meters) near the Mississippi River, to around 800 feet (245 meters) around my house.

Temp Range
degrees F
Temp Range
degrees C
39 to 61
4 to 16
50 to 73
10 to 23
60 to 82
16 to 28
64 to 85
18 to 29
62 to 83
17 to 28

Front pockets

Initial Report Summary:
The Field Guide Vest is pretty cool, looks and feels comfortable and durable, and has a boat-load of pockets.  Think about how many pockets you could possibly put on a vest, and that's about what we have here.  Yet it looks stylish and not really overloaded.  My only dislike so far is that I wouldn't mind if it was two inches (5 cm) longer, but otherwise it fits well, and I would be reluctant to go up to the next size.  I am anxious to use this vest and see what kind of use I can make out of all the pockets.

Field Test Report
June 26, 2009

Test Conditions:
I have managed to wear the Royal Robbins Field Guide Vest pretty much on a daily basis since receiving it two months ago.  Daily for hikes of 2 to 4 miles (3 to 6 km) in the woods near my home, and two 1-night backpacking outings to Palisades-Kepler State Park - East of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  In total, this has probably amounted to about 60 hours of wear for the field testing period. 

The initial temperatures were right around freezing when I started wearing the vest, and lately it has been as high as 80 F (27 C) for some early morning hikes.  The humidity in recent weeks has been as high as 90 %, and skies have been mostly clear, although I did hike through a few light showers.  My hiking has been on grassy (weedy) trails, as well as dirt and mud trails.

JET Out standing in his field!

Fit and Comfort:
The Royal Robbins Vest fits perfectly and is comfortable to wear.  The mesh lining seems to aid slightly in ventilation, and I have never had the vest cling to me due to perspiration.  My only complaint on comfort developed recently when the weather got warm and I started wearing short-sleeved shirts.  There are two adjustment straps with snaps, one on each side of the vest, used to make the vest slightly smaller or larger.  My arms rub against these when I am hiking and it has caused some irritation.  Not really skin irritation, but it irritates me as it feels like a scratchy tag, which if it were, I would remove.  As far as fit goes, it may be interesting to note that the arm openings are perfect in size.  They allow easy movement of my arms, yet are small enough to support the structure of the vest.  The only down side to this is that on one particularly cool morning I was under dressed and wanted to pull my arms inside the vest for a small amount of additional warmth.  The arm openings don't allow for this.

Field Testing:
The season for this test has fallen quite well as it has been warm enough to wear only the vest over a shirt and maintain a nice body temperature.  I have worn the Field Guide Vest over as many as two shirts, over a single long-sleeved shirt, and over short-sleeved shirts (both cotton and wicking types).

The vest provides enough warmth that I have gotten too warm a couple of times.  At first I was not sure why a vest would need a two-way zipper, but I have found that unzipping the vest from both the top and bottom, and leaving the two zipper pulls together in the center of the vest, allows for increased ventilation while still keeping the vest together.  It will be interesting to see if I can keep cool as we move into the two hottest months of the year.

As for carrying things, well that's what this vest is all about.  I haven't really loaded it up yet, but I have put quite a few things in most of the pockets.  For day hikes I load it up the most as I am not taking a pack.  Typically, for hikes around home, I take a pocketknife (the big Victorinox Rescue Tool), bug spray, a cell phone, a small water bottle, and last but not least, dog biscuits.  For longer hikes, or those not around home, I add some or all of the following; iPod, billfold, snack bars, and car keys. 

The left chest pocket works great for my iPod, allowing easy access to it and a nice path for the headset cable.  The lower right front pocket works great for the dog biscuits as even though it snaps, it is possible to easily reach into the pocket without unsnapping it to retrieve a treat for my Labrador, Claire.  (This pocket is now designated for dog treats only due to the accumulation of crumbs.)  The lower left zippered pocket works well for my cell phone as it keeps it fairly flush to my body, evens out the weight distribution, and protects the phone fairly well.  I typically only carry a phone for emergency situations, but on the rare occasion that I have received a call while hiking, I have been able to retrieve it easily in time to take the call.  The two elasticized rear pockets work well for my knife, the bug spray, a water bottle, and snacks.  All of the pockets I have just described can be accessed fairly easily while hiking.

It did sprinkle rain on me a couple of times while I was out with the Field Guide Vest.  It didn't rain hard enough to cause any issues, partly because the temperature was rather warm.  I carry Zip-Loc bags with me and slipped my electronics into them, but there was no evidence of the water penetrating to the inside of any of the pockets.  But this is not a testament to waterproofness as the rain was rather light.

Royal Robbins Field Guide Vest

Field Test Summary:
Over all the Royal Robbins Field Guide Vest has performed quite well.  It is comfortable, fits well, and is a convenient way to carry quite a multitude of items.  There are so many pockets I have yet to use them all, at least not at the same time.  The khaki color is neutral and the vest is sharp looking without being overly-fisherman-looking.  I have worn it with shorts a couple of times, and did feel a little overly-Cub-Scout-looking, but once I'm off hiking I tend not to worry about such things.  My only complaint is that even with a horde of pockets, none are situated for hand-warming.  This hasn't really been an issue, although sometimes I just find it comfortable to have my hands in my pockets.  Otherwise I really love this vest!

Long Term Test Report
August 24, 2009

Test Conditions:
I have continued to wear the Royal Robbins Field Guide on a daily basis during the Long Term test period.  The usage has been pretty much the same as in the Field Report section above, with an added trip to Battle Creek, Michigan for a hot air balloon rally.  (I'm on the setup and chase crew for a local balloonist.)  Other use has been daily morning hikes of 2 to 4 miles (3 to 6 km) in the woods near my home, and one 2-night backpacking / camping trip to Pinicon Ridge County Park here in Eastern Iowa.  I would estimate I have used the vest over a hundred hours since the test began in April.

Temperatures have ranged from around 40 F (4.4 C) up to 90 F (32 C) for this portion of the test, although most of my hiking in the vest has been below 70 F (21 C).  I have worn the vest in several light showers, although mostly the weather has been clear when I've been out.

Royal Robbins Vest Looking Up

Fit and Comfort:
The Royal Robbins Field Guide Vest continues to fit well and is comfortable to wear.  I find it somewhat amazing how much warmth the vest adds on cool mornings.  Unfortunately this also makes it a little too warm in warmer weather, although it seems to work pretty well up to 60 or 65 F (15 to 18 C).  Having the two-way main zipper allows me to open the front except for one small spot, and the mesh lining seems to help with ventilation. 

My arms still tend to rub on the two adjustment straps on the sides of the vest, but either they softened up, or I got used to them, as they no longer seem to be an irritation.

Royal Robbins Vest - JET

It did get a little warm for the vest on a few occasions this summer, but I still managed to wear it practically every day.  During one fairly heavy rain I wore a rain shell over the vest and it worked nicely.  All the belongings in the vest stayed dry, and because of the vest's fairly close fit, the shell covered it nicely without making me feel overly bulky.

I've continued to carry the items mentioned in my Field Report, which include a pocketknife, bug spray, a cell phone, a small water bottle, dog biscuits, and on occasion an iPod, billfold, snack bars, and car keys.  What I failed to mention in the Field Report was that I also regularly carry a camera.  It's nice to have a camera at the ready in one of the easy to access pockets.  As we are getting toward the end of summer I have also added a headlamp.  I've been carrying the headlamp in the left chest pocket, and when the morning sun hasn't come up yet I can easily grab it and light my path.  As the sun does come up it is easy to store... and I never have to think about remembering it because I leave it in the vest.

The trails I have been hiking have at times been overgrown, or have downed trees which need to be passed either by climbing over or crawling under.  The vest has certainly made lots of contact with brush and limbs, but I'm happy to report that I have never become snagged in these situations.

I haven't washed the Field Guide Vest yet.  It has a few minor marks on it but still looks pretty good.  The vest has worn well and held up just fine during hikes in both sunny and rainy weather.  It has gotten a little "comfortable", which means that the heavily used pockets are starting to sag a little.  This hasn't been an issue at all, and like I said, it's now more comfortable.

Comfortable Royal Robbins Field Vest

Long Term Testing Summary:
The Royal Robbins Field Guide Vest has continued to perform quite well.  I've gotten rather addicted to being able to carry lots of niceties without loading up cargo shorts, or taking a backpack on day-trips.  It really is convenient, and the vest design is such that I can load it with multiple items and I still don't really feel overloaded.  (I have felt overloaded carrying half as many items in pants pockets.)

As I said in the Initial report, "think about how many pockets you could possibly put on a vest, and that's about what we have here."  There are plenty of pockets and I have found it easy to distribute heavier items for balanced weight distribution.  The vest is comfortable, has worn well, and I plan to continue to use it for many miles to come.

Indian Creek

This concludes my reporting on the Royal Robbins Field Guide Vest.  My thanks to Backpackgeartest and Royal Robbins for this opportunity.

Respectfully submitted,

-James T.

Read more gear reviews by James E. Triplett

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Royal Robbins Field Vest > Test Report by James E. Triplett

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